The struggle with the Ninth Circle continues, as Team Arrow clashes with evil half-sister Emiko and Dante, we learn some of Diggle’s past that confirms a fan theory that’s been around for years, or seems to, and things get more complicated with Felicity’s Archer project in two different eras. Once again, Oliver is mostly absent from his own show, mostly a supporting character. Then again, the episode is called “Spartan” after all.
The episode opens with a shady exchange being made in the rain. Someone is apparently selling a tablet of some kind, which Green Arrow shoots out of his hand as the team shows up. In the ensuing fight, Virgil manages to fight his way free, leaving the heroes to battle henchmen. Taking what they got back to the Bunker, they work out there’s a leak at ARGUS. Or another one, anyway. Didn’t they kill a highly-placed ARGUS guy who was working for the Ninth Circle earlier this season? At any rate, Diggle doesn’t want to bring any more heat down on Lyla, so he reluctantly agrees to reach out to a contact at the Defense Intelligence Agency. The contact proves to be General Roy Stewart, who Diggle clearly has an issue with, but is friendly and respectful to Oliver. That mystery gets cleared up when the General announces he’s Diggle’s step-father.
That’s big news on a few levels. For one thing, not only have we the audience never heard about Diggle’s step-father before (likely because they just made him up for this episode), but apparently he’s never mentioned him to Oliver or the rest of the team, either. Keeping secrets to one side, if Roy Stewart is John’s step-father, you could make a really good case for saying John’s last name is Stewart. John Stewart is one of the best known of Earth’s Green Lanterns, and that GL was the one that starred in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. This was also alluded to in Elseworlds, when the Flash of Earth-90 not only knew John’s name (and didn’t seem to recognize anyone else), but commented on him not wearing his ring. Fans have long wondered if Diggle was a version of John Stewart, and I guess we have an answer now.
Felicity and Alena meet up at SmoakTech. Alena is very optimistic about the company’s future as they try and fix Archer, and mentions some interest in Archer from Dr. Will Magnus. Felicity is very excited about this, and it’s a nice Easter Egg for comics fans. In the DC Universe, Will Mangus is the creator of the Metal Men, a team of robot superheroes. Their chat gets interrupted when the Ninth Circle attacks, the women wisely flee, and Stewart’s soldiers repel down through the drop ceiling, which really makes me wonder what’s above that space. The soldiers save Felicity and Alena, but the bad guys get away with Archer, which has been reduced to being on only one tablet. Once again, I can not emphasize strongly enough how important it is to back up your work.
Felicity tells the team what happened, and Oliver, in keeping with his softer personality these days, is mostly worried about her. General Stewart comes in and apologizes for his men not being faster. Why Stewart is in the Bunker I don’t really know, but let’s face it, none of Arrow’s “secret headquarters” have stayed secret for long. He could take a few lessons from Batman on that. They figure out that the Ninth Circle is after some undercover assets, which the General apparently knew but didn’t do anything about until this meeting. After some more bitter comments from John, they split up, with Spartan and the General going to the DIA safehouse, and the others checking on an agent who didn’t respond to the emergency code. But before they head out, Oliver has time to tease Diggle about being off and brooding alone, which is Oliver’s job, and Diggle shares what some of his childhood with the General was like. Did anyone on this show have decent parents? Diggle also tells Oliver why he has an issue with the General, and it’s a decent reason. Dinah talks to Rene about how he’s taking Emiko’s villain status, and he seems to be a mix of cautiously hopeful and mild denial.
The main part of the team get to the unresponsive agent, and find out there’s a problem, just not the one they expected. Diggle and the General get to the safehouse, find downed agents all over, and then both get taken without getting off a shot or a punch. I don’t think that’s giving Diggle anywhere near enough credit, but it also shows his Spartan gear needs an upgrade.
At the Bunker, the rest of the team springs into action trying to find John, and Felicity comments that they’ve found people without Archer before. Well, yeah, most of Felicity’s time on the show has been without Archer. She’s gotten really dependent on that tool remarkably quickly. The General and John wake up zip-tied to chairs, and the general offers a critique of John’s attempts to get free. Just as they are trying to work out how to get to John’s Spartan helmet and send a signal, the Ninth Circle goons come in and start torturing the General for information.
On her own quest for information, Felicity uncovers the General’s background, and it doesn’t seem to line up with what Diggle told Oliver earlier. As they puzzle through that, Virgil and friends “motivate” the General to talk with a cattle prod. When Stewart defaults to the old “name, rank, and serial number” bit, they turn their attentions to Diggle, and Stewart gives in. After the bad guys leave with the code they needed, Stewart frees them and they manage to get an SOS out via John’s helmet. Oddly, John gets back his Spartan gear, helpfully left in the same room, minus his gloves. Just as their escape attempt looks like it’s over, Team Arrow shows up for a well-timed rescue.
Diggle patches himself, and Dinah sympathizes at his wounds. Stewart tells them about the project the Ninth Circle is going after, which sounds suitably mad scientist to be something from DARPA, where Stewart used to work. Felicity worries about her creation being used for evil ends, wondering what that makes her, and Alena talks her out of the rapidly worsening mood. Oliver finds Diggle and gives him some news he was ignorant of about his father.
Felicity can’t get control of Archer, but she can trace it, and alerts the team when the Ninth Circle starts using it again. The team scatters through the base to sprinkle gadgets Felicity needs to access Archer again, and Oliver goes to confront Emiko. Again. He tells her what really happened to her mother, she doesn’t believe him, and they fight. He wins, and sounds like he’s getting through to her, but Dante comes back and throws a monkey wrench in the works (ok, a stun grenade in the fight), and gets Emiko away from Oliver. The others get in a pitched battle and General Stewart uses his knowledge of similar facilities to guide them out.
The bad guys get away with the horrific sounding weapon, and Felicity is forced to shut down Archer for good. Despite all that, the team seems to be in good spirits. Stewart leaves to attend to follow up, giving John a stereotypical parental message on the way out. Felicity wonders what to do next, and decides that Archer was a good idea that was just too dangerous. Alena appears to have other ideas. Emiko and Dante gloat over their new acquisition, and then Emiko makes some personnel adjustments in the Circle.
The future segments are back, as Felicity tries to hack the helmet Mia captured last episode with a lot of help from future Laurel. Felicity can’t get in and decides she needs a particular gadget to help out. Connor and Mia go off to the shady market, and Connor proves to have some unexpected connections in the “Deathstroke Sector.” This leads to him revealing a few family secrets, and he and Mia almost kiss between fights. They get their doodad back to Felicity, and she finds out some really bad news about Galaxy One and their anti-vigilante efforts.
What I liked: The nod to John’s Stewart connection was interesting. I wonder if he’s going to get a green ring before the show ends next season? Or maybe on Flash after that? Oliver is a steady, supporting presence to both John and Felicity this episode, and I like that they’re confident enough to minimize their main character, that Amell does a good job acting the part, and that Oliver has grown enough to do that. Season One Oliver couldn’t have managed this. I’m glad they are at least acknowledging that Rene and Emiko were close before her reveal, and that he’s not just shrugging it off. The General was an interesting character and I’d like to see him again.
What I didn’t: Spartan went down way too easy. Archer is becoming a vastly overused plot device. I missed Roy and William in the future bits. The weapon the Ninth Circle stole was way too dangerous to be in an under-defended facility like that. We still have no idea why Dante decided Emiko was so important that he went to the lengths he did to recruit her, or why she was trained on the bow for that matter.
It was an ok episode. I’ll go 3.5 out of 5, in part for John’s closer ties to the Green Lantern Corps.